The new Microsoft Torque Search app for Android Wear is a clever concept. It’s a voice-search alternative to “OK Google” on your wrist, with a novel twist — literally.
You turn your wrist “forward and backward” to initiate Torque. The app is one of several experimental projects coming out of Microsoft’s innovation lab The Garage.
I tested it on my Moto 360 Android Wear device. In some respects I prefer the UI and aesthetics of Torque to Google’s own Android Wear search UI.
As indicated above Microsoft is promoting Torque as an easier-to-use alternative to OK Google. Here’s how the company describes it in Google Play:
Microsoft Torque Search brings the most powerful voice-enabled web search to your Android Wear or Android Phone. With a flick of the wrist, you can say what you want to search from your Android Wear watch. If you don’t have your watch, you can also shake your phone to do the same thing. Torque on your Android phone is both a Torque watch demo and a quick tool to complement existing mobile search without breaking the flow of your active application on your phone.
In my tests this weekend it worked relatively well — when the wrist rotation triggered the app. I performed a lot of wrist-searches but Torque only successfully launched about half to two-thirds of the time. This unpredictability made it frustrating to use.
Right now that unreliability means that Torque is not a viable alternative to OK Google. But when actually working and compared to Google side-by-side it did a good job of delivering similar kinds of content (e.g., sports, local, directions, weather, etc.) as well as “lite” web search results like those Google offers on Android Wear.
The larger problem is that the overall Android Wear user experience is not very intuitive and often frustrating. While I like the Moto 360 and the LG G Watch R aesthetics very much Android Wear isn’t yet worthy of these improving hardware designs.
That was not the case with the first group of devices that came out. The hardware was clunky; now the software is the weaker aspect of the experience.
It remains to be seen whether the Apple Watch does much better. If so, there will be pressure on Google to improve Android Wear quickly.